José Miguel BL, 30, and Adrián RR, 28, alleged ringleaders of the modest soccer match-fixing scheme dismantled in June last year in Operation Conifer, have been arrested for the second time in less than a year for his alleged involvement in another similar episode, as confirmed by EL PAÍS in sources close to the investigation. The two are considered by the Civil Guard as the alleged leaders of a second network, this one orchestrated around a team from the Third RFEF, Conil CF, to condition the results of at least 13 of the matches that it played in the last phase of the 2021-2022 season.
Along with them, two footballers from this Cadiz team have been arrested, the goalkeeper Fran SG (who now plays for another team) and the central defender Pablo UG In addition, another 34 people – including six other players – are being investigated. The Civil Guard estimates that the network pocketed about 1.3 million euros, according to initial estimates. Between both police operations, there are already 50 modest soccer matches under suspicion of having been rigged by José Miguel B. and Adrián R.
The investigations that have led to the second arrest of both began in February 2022, when Conil CF executives reported to the armed institute the suspicious attitude of several players from their own team. What had been a first phase of that season with great results that made the team a candidate for promotion, had given way to a second in which the negative markers accumulated senselessly. Suspicions focused on several players, whose failures had led to “an inconsistent season finale”, as described by the Civil Guard in the note made public this Thursday to report on the arrests.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Monybet, led to Adrián R. and José Miguel B. as the alleged ringleaders of the plot. The first was that season as a midfielder for CD Rota, a team from the same group of the Tercera RFEF in which Conil CF was a member. The second, linked to Atlético Sanluqueño, where he had been coach of youth teams, was what in the jargon is known as tipster —Internet betting advisor. The latter was presumably in charge of managing the bets of the rest of the members of the network on the supposedly rigged matches.
By then, both were already being investigated by the National Police Center for Integrity in Sports and Gambling (Cenpida, of the National Police), within Operation Coniferous, which would lead to the first arrest of both. In this operation, Adrián R. and José Miguel B. are accused of alleged fraud in 20 matches held in Spain (mostly from the First and Second RFEF, the old Second B and Third, although there are also friendlies), 11 in Gibraltar and six more in Andorra. In that operation, another 42 people were arrested, including 20 active soccer players from modest soccer teams, and six more were investigated. In those investigations, a Conil CF match was already investigated, the one that played against Gerena on May 5, 2021 and which they lost 3-0. The massive bets that the break would end 1-0 in that match (as was the case after a suspicious 28th minute penalty) triggered the alerts and gave rise to the start of Operation Conifer. Then a Conil CF player was already arrested.
In parallel to this investigation, the Civil Guard investigations were carried out, which focused on the matches of the Cádiz club. As detailed on Thursday by the armed institute, the investigation has included the analysis of nearly 100,000 bets made on matches played by Conil CF in the second phase of last season, when the results drastically worsened. The study revealed a “disproportionate increase in bets placed on this team’s matches” as well as their amounts, much higher than those of other matches in the same category.
To circumvent the limits that gambling houses set to bet on matches of the category in which Conil CF played ―in addition to not being able to do so by players of that division, they cannot exceed 300 euros either―, the plot used tricks similar to the dismantled last year. Thus, to prevent the computer systems from detecting suspicious confluences of bets on a match and result, the members of the same made others at the same time in First Division matches with predictable results to camouflage them. However, they did not always achieve it by betting on occasions almost compulsively.
In addition, to increase the money bet – and, with it, the benefits – they used false identities and intermediaries. With the first, they opened profiles in gambling houses to place bets over the Internet. With the second, calls mules In criminal jargon, they did them in person and collected the prizes obtained. In return, these people received a small amount as payment. The Civil Guard has arrested 28 of these mules.
The analysis of the bets focused the suspicions on 13 games (the last one, played in May 2022, a month before the first arrest of the two alleged leaders), of which the Civil Guard viewed the videos. “Uncommon errors could be observed in professional players of the Third Division, especially in the goals conceded by Conil CF”, highlights the armed institute. Subsequent interrogations of the squad players determined the alleged involvement of Fran S. and Pablo U, the team’s goalkeeper and central defender, which led to their arrest on April 19. According to detailed sources of the investigation, both received between 5,000 and 10,000 euros per match rigged in meetings they had with the leaders of the plot in hotels.
Eight days later, José Miguel B. and Adrián R. were killed. During the searches carried out at the homes of those involved, the Civil Guard has located 16,695 euros in cash, as well as various computer and mobile phone equipment that will be analyzed. Cryptocurrency accounts have also been located. This Thursday, Conil CF has published a statement on its social networks in which it “condemns and rejects […] this type of behavior that dirty, harm and tarnish the image of a historic club like ours [fundado en 1931] and football in general. The club also announces that it will appear in the case as a private prosecution.
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